Local 33 President, Aaron Greenberg is the Ward 8 (Wooster Square) alderman while many others in the Local 33 leadership team are not even graduate students but UNITE HERE staff. As graduate students we would like to maintain our independence in the often petty town-gown fighting (for example, over issues like parking) and maintain our political independence and academic freedom. State labor law, however, makes it clear that we will be required to strike and pay union dues if the leadership so decides. There is no opting out. How the interests of UNITE HERE will benefit from graduate students is obvious, but what is less obvious is how we will benefit from UNITE HERE, an over 270,000 people association that has zero experience helping graduate students. Further, our union dues would reach a value of $600-$900/year assuming 2% as taken by the UAW at NYU to 3% as taken by Local 34 at Yale (as calculated on a ~$30,000 stipend.)
Graduate students make an ideal playing chip for a larger organization and its leadership aiming to gain more political power within the university and New Haven politics. Local 33, as part of a larger federation of unions with high political stakes and connections both locally and nationwide, stands to gain both from their ability to legally ask us to strike and cripple Yale or risk expulsion. DOWN put it best:
"GESO’s alignment with the New Haven unions Local 34 and Local 35, representing thousands of Yale employees, places it in the middle of a larger, citywide discussion on the expanding power of a less-than-transparent labor coalition. GESO’s massive rally last year of over a thousand, including the governor, the mayor, and various state representatives, reveals the high political stakes of GESO’s fight for recognition on a larger stage."
Local 33 could easily address these concerns: drop all affiliations with UNITE HERE to be an independent union, beholden to no one but graduate students while also adopting a transparent, democratic system for appointing leadership positions. New Haven Police Department has organized as an independent union. Why not GESO?
Local 33 funding sources
Local 33 receives funding from UNITE HERE. While UNITE HERE serves a key constituency of New Haven, it remains unclear how the best interests of UNITE HERE aligns with those of graduate student teaching fellows. Alders backed by UNITE HERE have stalled projects such as the construction of graduate student housing as well as construction of the new biology building on Science Hill. Both projects are important to graduate students suggesting that the best interests of graduate students do not align with those of UNITE HERE. Additionally, UNITE HERE funds political campaigns which indicates that our union dues (which we again would be forced to pay due to state labor law) could go towards politicians none of us ever agreed with or would ever vote for.